Baker Updates, Refiles Road Safety Bill, Including Seatbelt Enforcement

Red-light cameras, stricter penalties for driving with a suspended license, and allowing law enforcement to pull motorists over for failing to wear a seatbelt are among the highlights of a road safety bill the Baker administration unveiled Monday.

The wide-ranging bill includes both new proposals, such as additional enforcement options to help enhance 2015 legislation known as "Haley's Law," and refiled sections that Gov. Charlie Baker unsuccessfully sought in previous lawmaking sessions, such as permitting police to enforce seatbelt use without first identifying another offense.

Massachusetts has implemented several road safety reforms in recent years, including a new distracted driving ban that took effect last year. Baker and his deputies said Monday that much more work still needs to be done.

"With more drivers returning to the roads, we need to build on these efforts to keep people safe," Baker said.

The bill would not mandate red-light cameras, but would give municipalities the option to deploy them in intersections where they choose. Cameras would take pictures of vehicle license plates if a driver commits a violation such as running a red light or making an illegal turn on red.

The past year's 334 roadway deaths are nearly even with the 336 recorded in 2019, Baker said, despite significantly less traffic during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One section of the bill repeats proposed reforms to the commercial driver's licensing process. The administration first filed the changes in July 2019, after a Massachusetts driver whose commercial license should have been suspended allegedly caused a fatal crash in New Hampshire.

Lawmakers launched an oversight inquiry into the Registry of Motor Vehicles and its failure to act on out-of-state alerts about the driver, but did not act on Baker's licensing reforms before the 2019-2020 session ended.

This story is developing and will be updated.